BX1: Islandia Campaign



Aug 07, 2006 22:55:50
I'm intrigued with vaporware. Here's what I could find about Islandia:

Pre-production cover mock-up:

Acaeum ongoing research:

Afterglow page, showing the products that the TSR Islandia was to be based on:

Afterglow page listing the product numbers (scroll down to "Companion Games"):

A detailed Acaeum thread:

(A highlight from this thread is that one fellow took notes from a convention talk by the Islandia creator who stated that Islandia represents the Real World Appalachian Mountains as if they were surrounded by water.)

Also, I remember that someone asked Bruce Heard about Islandia several years ago on the MMB. IIRC, he said that he remembered that it was a setting to be written by a freelancer and placed in the world of Mystara, but that in his opinion, it didn't fit very well into Mystara.

One thing that I'd like to know is if it was decided where in Mystara's oceans Islandia was to placed.



Aug 08, 2006 12:11:30
Dear MMBers, I was able to get in touch with a person who played in the original Islandia campaign (http://www.acaeum.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=62194#62194). He is going to try to answer any questions I have about Islandia, and see about getting in touch with the author William John Wheeler. I intend to submit the interview to the Vaults. I was wondering if you all have any questions to add.

Could you relate what happened in regard to TSR's acquisition of three of the five of The Companions' Islandia adventures and the subsequent cancelation of BX1: The Islandia Campaign?

What position did you hold at TSR?

How involved were you with the Known World/Mystara setting?

How far along did the TSR version of Islandia get before the plug was pulled?

Was the decision made about exactly where in Mystara's oceans Islandia was located? Would it have been placed on the outer world or in the Hollow World?

Had any map been drawn of Islandia within Mystara?

Do any of the Companions materials contain a map of the entire island?

In the Islandia thread at the Acaeum message board http://www.acaeum.com/forum/about1410-0-asc-0.html, someone stated that Islandia represented the Appalachian Mountains surrounded by water? If so, was there a real world map you based Islandia on?

Could you describe the feel of the setting, and how it differs from your average fantasy setting? What type of cultures does it feature?

How different was the TSR Islandia going to be from Companions Islandia?

Why didn't TSR purchase the rights to "Streets of Gems" and "Gems for Death"?

According to the Acaeum, you stated that the pre-production cover http://www.acaeum.com/library/bx1.html was a "hurry-up job and it had no relationship to anything inside". Was this art only going to be used as a mock-up in TSR promotional material while an original piece of cover art was planned for the final product, or was this going to be the actual cover? If there was going to be a new cover, was any work done on this, such as sketches? Were any interior illustrations done for the book?

Do you know if and how Islandia was going to be tied into Mystara's wider continuity (for example, discussion of what Immortals were worshipped in Islandia or backstory about how Islandia fit into the history of the world)?

How were PCs going to be placed in Islandia (e.g. sailing, teleportation gates, or were the PCs expected to be natives of Islandia)? Was there any introductory section suggesting what Known World cities the PCs could sail from?

Were there going to be write-ups for any Islandia-specific monsters?

Can you clarify what character levels the setting was to be for? The pre-production cover apparently says for it's for character levels 1-14, but the Acaeum research page http://www.acaeum.com/library/research.html states that Islandia was to be for levels 1-10. According to the cover mock-up, BX stood for "Basic/Expert", which suggests that the Islandia Campaign spanned from Basic (1-3) through Expert (4-14) character levels.

Was there going to be some in-game feature of the setting that prevented characters from advancing beyond a certain level (e.g. 10th or 14th level)?

The Acaeum research page states that Islandia was alternately referred to as SX1 - can you clarify this? Did SX stand for "Supermodule Expert"?

Do you own the rights to the Islandia material?

Do you know if any notes or production copies for the TSR version of Islandia exist?

Are Companions' accessory series "Companion Pieces", "Treasure Trove", and "Places of Mystery" connected to the Islandia setting?

Are there any Companions products missing from the Afterglow webpage http://www.afterglow2.com/Product/Companions.htm?

Do you have any intention of publishing Islandia again, whether by making the original Companions books available as pdf downloads, and/or by updating them to D&D 3.5E?

Are you still involved with role playing games?


Aug 08, 2006 15:27:01
I am intrigued by your research here, and the Islandia campaign in general.

What I would be interested in, is learning more about the feel of the setting, and how it differs from your average fantasy setting. What type of cultures does it feature?

My impression so far is that it is a fairly gritty, low fantasy type setting, which would explain why Bruce felt it didnt really fit with Mystara.

Given the low-magic feel of the setting, the Hollow World might be a good location for the islands, though from some of the answers given, the islands north of Alphatia might also be appropriate, or the "Sea Kingdoms" from the Masters Map...



Aug 08, 2006 16:35:19
Thanks Havard, I incorporated your questions into the list.


Aug 08, 2006 20:07:53
Okay, I sent the questions to the fellow who knows John...now I'll just wait and see if I get a response.


Aug 08, 2006 22:45:22
Plaag? Izzat'choo?

That fellow who was in on the convention presentation was none other than yours truly... who goes by the name James Mishler in real life...

I'm going to see if I can dig up my notes and bring them to Gen Con. I don't think they mention anything about Islandia directly, but ya naver know...


Aug 08, 2006 23:19:00
Oops...double post! :embarrass


Aug 08, 2006 23:20:36
Hey, you're right...that is you! I didn't even look at the name :D.

jamesmishler wrote here http://www.acaeum.com/forum/about1410-0-asc-20.html:
The island of Islandia, IIRC, is actually the eastern United States, sunk to a point under water, with that remaining above ground the Appalachian mountain range and related spurs and such.

It'd be neat to see those notes you took!



Aug 14, 2006 22:43:45
Here's a Q&A I had with Lance, a player in William John Wheeler's home Islandia campaign. He passed the abovelisted questions onto John, and also answered these that I posed to him:

Lance, being that you were one of the players in the original Islandia campaign, I'm curious:

Q: What PC or PCs did you play?

A: I played a fighter type called Arpin

Q: Did your adventuring party have a name?

A: Yes, a most impressive name, we called ourselves THE PARTY!!!

Q: How large a gaming group was there for the Islandia campaign?

A: The group I was in had between six and eight. Sometimes John had multiple parties adventuring at the same time (and sometimes they would meet up, but only one would know about the presence of the other - a story in itself). All in all I am not sure how many adventured in John's world. (several dozen?)

Q: Were any of your characters incorporated into the official Companions Islandia products?

A: Personally, no. Others, not sure (I would have to go and re-read them).

Q: Did you officially contribute to any of the Companions products?

A: Personally, no. Others, yes (some of the people who are listed in 'Places of
Mystery' were from an earlier group).

Q: Have you done any work in the RPG industry?

A: Officially, no.

Q: Were there any adventures that took place in the wider world or planes beyond Islandia?

A: Not that I am aware of.

Q: In the home campaign, was Islandia placed on one of the established RPG settings such as Oerth, or was it pretty much entirely home-brew?

A: It was pretty much home brew.

Q: Did you or the group ever roleplay in the Known World of Mystara setting?

A: No.

Q: Was Islandia really a fantasy analogue of the Appalachian Mountains, but surrounded by water?

A: I am stretching my memory here. I believe the Land of Islandia was based on a topographical map of part of Maine (maybe part of the Appalachian mountains since they run through Maine) raised or lowered by 50 feet (or 100
feet, you get the picture). John had someone who was trained in mapmaking create the maps.

Q: Are there any especially fond events you remember from the campaign?

A: The time THE PARTY was walking down a dirt road in the wilderness and we ran into an Orc coming the other way. We all hemmed and hawed about going to attack the Orc (one never knows how powerful John's npcs were). The Orc did its best to look menacing. After the Orc had gone we later found out that the Orc was a WIMP and we could of taken it on.

Another one was our parties quest to destroy an evil artifact that we had found. It was a ring (yes, yes, I know what you are thinking). When John said he was going to have the Islandia Campaign published by TSR it was changed into a medallion and bracers. I believe the ring is mentioned in The Brotherhood of the Bolt module. Yes, we had to deal with them and EBFs (Evil Black Floaties). Evil Black Floaties were what an earlier group had named the wraith-like form of undead in John's game (see Brotherhood of the Bolt). John liked the name so thats what he called them..

Really nasty bunch. Could be very deadly.

Hope that helps. Anything else just let me know.

Q: What years were you an active player in the Islandia campaign?

A: That's stretching the envelope of my memory. *Laughing*

Mid to late 80's to early 90's (as best I can remember). Maybe five to seven years in length.

John and Peter Rice (the other creative part of The Companions) had seminars at GenCon when it was in Milwaukee.

I remember going up with John and other players in the campaign and sitting in on his and Peter's seminars.

I just remembered this piece of The Islandia campaign...he had two levels of players, the adventuring party players (like me) and then the strategic players (some of his friends from accross the country...or the world (not sure about that)).

The strategic players were playing the higher level characters (the King, Barons, higher muckity-mucks (as I remember someone calling them)). They rarely interacted with the players but if the players made enough 'noise' that the higher ups noticed, the players could be in BIG trouble.

I think (if I remember correctly) it was either the party I was in or another one that diposed the Baron of Wentworth in one of the adventures/plots.

It created a dilemma for John in that according to how the fuedal system works (from what I remember) if the Baron had a problem he could go to his higher up noble for help. If need be that noble could go to his 'boss' if he needed help and on and on up the 'food chain' until, if need be, it would get to the King who would send aid down the 'chain of command'.

For some reason John did not want to deal with that level of detail but I cannot remember how, if it was ever, resolved.

BTW, Lance said he doesn't mind answering (to the best of his recollection) any additional questions the MMB folk have for him about Islandia. If you guys post any here, I'll cut and paste them over to the Acaeum forum, or of course anyone's welcome to register and post questions directly at http://www.acaeum.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=62262#62262


[EDIT] added another Q&A 8/15


Aug 15, 2006 7:41:31

Interested as I always am about new critters, does Lance have any recollection of what the "Evil Black Floaties" were like, stats-wise?



Aug 16, 2006 20:52:56
Interested as I always am about new critters, does Lance have any recollection of what the "Evil Black Floaties" were like, stats-wise?

(Larry's response cut and pasted from the Acaeum boards) :

I have been thinking about this one for the past day (and even went to find my Companions modules).

They were covered in the Brotherhood of the Bolt series (Curse on Hareth, Plague of Terror, and Brotherhood of the Bolt), specifically in the Brotherhood of the Bolt.

First some background to put my answer in perspective.

Some of the character stats in John's game were of his own creation (with similarities to other RPGs (stat range 3 - 18 - referenced from the Brotherhood of the Bolt module)):

Malignancy (MAL) - a measure of how powerful one is, based on experience, expertise, combat skill level, or the like. MAL is an aggressiveness rating similar to the Monstermark (see 'The Monstermark System," by Don Turnbull, White Dwarf, issues 1 to 3). Non-adventurers have a MAL of 1 - 2, beginning adventurers have a MAL of 5 to 8 (depending on armor and weapon), experienced adventurers have a MAL of 10 to 50, dragons and other exceptionally powerful creatures have a MAL of 50+.

Intellect (INT) - The ability to think clearly and logically.

Personal Magnetism (PM) - the strength of one's personality. a measure of the psychic force at one's disposal allowing one to control magic or influence others.

Now to the EBFs (summarized from Brotherhood of the Bolt):

Evil Black Floaties (EBF): a generic non-corporeal monster

Murk and mist have coalesced into a cloak of a creature without substance.

....some RPGs call these examples of the more powerful walking dead wraiths, ghosts, spectres, wights, and so on...

....Most of the floaties of this type are not inimical to the player character, but may give them warnings or send them on a quest to right ancient wrongs....

....The truly vile monsters of this type are the non-corporeal types, created by the addition of a great deal of power to living bodies....

It then goes on to list the stats for this type of creature:

INT = 14 - 18

PM = 12 - 18

MAL = 25 - 70

Thus, there exists among the EBFs a kind of Hierarchy, with their abilities covering a wide range. Common to some is the ability to drain away life force...others sap the strength or the will, and still others may kill by a touch. Some do none of these, merely being able to instill primal terror in those who view them, or spread confusion, distrust, or unrest. Most have the power of limited telekinesis....

I know my answer did not directly answer Geoff's question but this is just to give you an idea of what they really were (in the game and to the parties involved), something not to be trifled with and we never REALLY knew how powerful they really were. It was up to John.

It could of been as lowly in power as a wraith, or as powerful as a super-spectre.

Some were man-sized, others well......we once ran into one that was 100 FEET LONG...yes, I am not kidding here.

How did the party defeat it??? We did not, at least, not directly. The party enlisted the aid of a River Spirit (see Companions module, Places of Mystery IV - Highroad: Volcrax's Toll).

What the party essentially did was instead of giving the Water Spirit just coin, we tossed in some of our magic items to persuade it to fight for us (although, I think this was one of John's ways to drain off some of our excess magic items).

Well, it worked; the Water Spirit rose up and defeated the quite large EBF.


Aug 17, 2006 7:50:37
Wow, this is quite interesting! Please extend my thanks to Larry for his insight! Obviously those EBFs were tought customers, then.